Ampara, Batticaloa, Human Rights, Human Security, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Trincomalee

What Is The Future Of The Eastern University?

The Eastern University Muslim students are trying to get transfers to other universities for security reasons following the claymore attack by the LTTE on January 31st 2007. Students outside of Batticaloa district are fearful after the incident and some have little experience of such incidents.

What I could see after talking to the students was that they were very fearful after the experience and there were internal politics between the Vanni – Betti armed groups.

When I spoke to a student out of the North and East who is studying at the university, she said “on that day a few students ran around the university compound making a barking sound. I think it was a signal or warning to some students to expect an attack. Actually we were in the dark regarding this signal. Thereafter gunmen entered the hostel, where there were only female students, and they warned us to lay down and opened fire towards the sky twice. I think the reason for this was that others involved wouldn’t be seen.”

“We couldn’t image what would happen next. Soon after, I heard the big bomb blast sound close by. After that I heard firing close to the university square. This was a very scary experience for me. I recently entered as a first-year student a few months ago. I don’t have past experiences of such incidents. My native area is very calm and far from the war-affected area. I thought I would lose my life that day and I prayed to god,” she said.

A second-year student expressed his experience to me. “I was at the lecture hall when I heard the blast sound very close to our university. After that there was the sound of firing. We lay down on the floor. I could hear the gunfire sound getting closer. When I raised my head I could see government forces enter the university square while firing towards the sky. I lay down again. After a few minutes we were gathered together by the government forces and they searched nook and corner. They inquired from us one by one. If the army were killed in that incident I fear they might have killed us. Fortunately policemen were killed,” he said.

A senior lecturer told me that “this is not the first time that armed groups used the university area to target government forces and students faced lot of problems during this time. We don’t like this type of activities. There are vast lands in the Batticaloa route. They can use those areas. But when they use this university square it endangers students. They don’t use the university square in north (Jaffna). We think they are trying to spoil the education of the eastern people. Already we lost many semesters due to strikes and other reasons.”

A senior student said, “we are worried about this incident. Students from the Muslim community transferred to other universities due to similar incidents which happened earlier. So far we still couldn’t open the medical faculty in our university. When students transfer out it can delay the opening of other faculties. So the armed group who was involved in this incident must announce that the university square is a peace zone and take responsibility for the security of the students. Otherwise eastern university will get isolated when compared with other universities in Sri Lanka.”